Iron Deficiency Anemia: Care Instructions

Skip to the navigation

Your Care Instructions

Blood vessel

Anemia means that you do not have enough red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen around your body. When you have anemia, it can make you pale, weak, and tired.

Many things can cause anemia. The most common cause is loss of blood. This can happen if you have heavy menstrual periods. It can also happen if you have bleeding in your stomach or bowel.

You can also get anemia if you don't have enough iron in your diet or if it's hard for your body to absorb iron. In some cases, pregnancy causes anemia. That's because a pregnant woman needs more iron.

Your doctor may do more tests to find the cause of your anemia. If a disease or other health problem is causing it, your doctor will treat that problem.

It's important to follow up with your doctor to make sure that your iron level returns to normal.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • If your doctor recommended iron pills, take them as directed.
    • Try to take the pills on an empty stomach. You can do this about 1 hour before or 2 hours after meals. But you may need to take iron with food to avoid an upset stomach.
    • Do not take antacids or drink milk or anything with caffeine within 2 hours of when you take your iron. They can keep your body from absorbing the iron well.
    • Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron. You may want to take iron pills with a glass of orange juice or some other food high in vitamin C.
    • Iron pills may cause stomach problems. These include heartburn, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and cramps. It can help to drink plenty of fluids and include fruits, vegetables, and fibre in your diet.
    • It's normal for iron pills to make your stool a greenish or greyish black. But internal bleeding can also cause dark stool. So it's important to tell your doctor about any colour changes.
    • Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your iron pills. Even after you start to feel better, it will take several months for your body to build up its supply of iron.
    • If you miss a pill, don't take a double dose.
    • Keep iron pills out of the reach of small children. Too much iron can be very dangerous.
  • Eat foods with a lot of iron. These include red meat, shellfish, poultry, and eggs. They also include beans, raisins, whole-grain bread, and leafy green vegetables.
  • Steam your vegetables. This is the best way to prepare them if you want to get as much iron as possible.
  • Be safe with medicines. Do not take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers unless your doctor tells you to. These include aspirin, naproxen (Aleve), and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).
  • Liquid iron can stain your teeth. But you can mix it with water or juice and drink it with a straw. Then it won't get on your teeth.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You vomit blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
  • You pass maroon or very bloody stools.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your stools are black and look like tar, or they have streaks of blood.
  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your fatigue and weakness continue or get worse.
  • You have side effects from taking iron pills, such as nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, or heartburn.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

Enter Z825 in the search box to learn more about "Iron Deficiency Anemia: Care Instructions."